Book Summary of
Peter Maass’
"Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil"

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Summary of Peter Maass’ Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil

In Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil, Peter Maass examines the numerous effects in which petroleum can have on the countries that produce it. Although some countries such as Norway, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Brunei have benefited for the most part from the exportation of oil, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Ecuador, Russia, Iraq and Venezuela face a different scenario. These countries suffer from what Maass labels as the “resource curse.” This is when countries are doomed to “lower growth, higher corruption, less freedom and more warfare” due to their economy depending too heavily on a natural resources. Our relentless pursuit of oil comes with costs; and the most serious problems caused by our dependence on oil include social and political.

Our dependence on oil increases the nation’s violence as well as social divisions in the oil- producing countries. Part of the reason that social divisions emerge is due to corruption. Maass exemplifies the emergence of social divisions in our society using the case of the Niger Delta. Although the Niger Delta is the eighth-largest oil exporting country, and generates over $400 from its oil industry, Nigeria still suffers social divisions where nine out of ten Nigerians live on less than $2 per day as the money goes into the hands of the ministers and bureaucrats. When such social division is apparent as a cause of this injustice and corruption in the system and the majority of the citizens are living in desolation, citizens then turn to violence. Maass explains this in his chapter, “Rot,” where Nigerian citizens formed rebels, organized resistance armies, and kidnapped workers in the oil industry in hope for a better life. Another example of an oil-producing country that faces misery is
Equatorial Guinea. It is the third-largest exporter of oil in sub-Saharan Africa and yet the country is poor. Once again, this is due to corruption. But the social corruption is worse in Equatorial Guinea, as the money falls under the corruption of one singe dictator – Teodoro Obiang. All the money made by their production of oil does not go to health, education, or anything else for its people; it all falls into the Obiang as he works his way around laundering the money through secret contracts.

Even though Obiang’s bad reputations and his corrupt activities are known by others and his secrets spilled, eventually, oil companies and even President Obama maintain good relations with Obiang because of their self-interest in acquiring these oil from Equatorial Guinea. In this sense, even our political decision to support such corruption for our dependence on oil negatively affects the impact of these oil-producing countries such as Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. Hence, corruption continues with no repercussions, social gaps widen, and domestic violence rises as a result. Another example, in which a negative impact can be seen politically, is when Hugo Chávez ran for election in Venezuela. Chavez appealed to the mass with the oil price because he knew this would gain his popularity. Soon after, when Chávez tried to redistribute the wealth of oil, he was faced with more political and economic crises. Therefore, as Maass points out, our dependence on oil can bring not only misery and violence for the oil-producing nations due to government corruption. Maass also points out that democratic countries that do not completely rely on one natural resource for their economy are less likely to suffer from producing and exporting oil.
In conclusion, it is evident that our dependence on oil has both social and political impacts on countries that produce oil. In order to help decrease these problems, Maass argues that we first need to curtail our appetite for oil by understanding that our dependence on oil harms the countries that produce it. Oil causes problems such as violence, poverty, and corruption. Maass is a realist and he allows the readers to become more aware of these problems as he encourages us to be more efficient and conservative. As a realist, while he knows that the world’s dependence on oil will not end any time soon, he hopes that the oil’s twilight will be “as short as possible.”


Maass, Peter. Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil. New York: Vintage Book,
2009. Print.

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